What happened

Shares of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) rose 37.2% in the first six months of 2019, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The digital video service operator's shareholders can thank a stellar fourth-quarter report for almost the entire jump.

So what

Netflix started the year with a bang, absolutely crushing Wall Street's expectations in the holiday quarter of 2018. Analysts and other market watchers started noticing that Netflix's fourth-quarter results should come in strong, boosting their recommendations and price targets in the first half of January. The company also raised subscription prices along the way, which lifted share prices by 7% in a single day. Market makers love the sound of rising revenues. The fourth-quarter report delivered on these promises, showing the addition of 8.8 million net new subscribers globally.

The stock has been trading largely sideways since that momentous report, essentially keeping pace with the broader market since the end of January.

Red Netflix logo on a beige stucco wall.

Image source: Netflix.

Now what

That's not to say that Netflix has been quiet. The company took home four Oscar awards in February, cementing its status as a credible creator of strong long-form content. April's first-quarter report highlighted another 9.6 million new subscribers and a renewed focus on international content.

Meanwhile, a plethora of industry rivals -- often current or former collaborators -- announced their own video streaming platforms. A lot of the most popular third-party content in Netflix's video library is now headed for other shores, including blockbuster hits like Friends and The Office. These announcements were all more or less expected, reflecting the sea change that's going on in this maturing digital video market.

The ups balanced out the downs, and the stock stayed relatively stable. Netflix is trading roughly 10% below the all-time highs that were set last summer. Next week's second-quarter report may stir the pot again, depending on how the results measure up to Wall Street's expectations.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.